On Thursday at Sandrock Elementary School, a large block of ice sat melting in the hot sun near the playground.
A group of third- and fourth-graders had first put out the ice block at about 8 a.m., when their last day at summer school began.
About two hours later, it was time to evaluate the piece of ice as it succumbed to the summer rays.
As the students squinted into the sun, they guessed that the ice block had gotten smaller and weighed less.
“We are looking at it to see how long it would take to melt,” said 8-year-old Dalton Hatten. “I guess about two hours.”
But, the 10-pound ice block had only lost about four pounds that morning, according to their data.
In another two hours, the ice block might remain, but the students would be done with summer school for good.
About 50 elementary school students in kindergarten through fifth grade attended the summer school program each morning for four weeks.
Thursday was their final day, complete with Popsicle treats and free time to blow bubbles outside.
It didn’t feel like school, but program director Julie Sperl said the program helped some students who needed a few extra weeks of instruction in reading and math.
“We try to make it more fun,” Sperl said of summer school.
Activities Thursday included making mathematic tables with their ice-melting data and spelling out words in sidewalk chalk. “We had themes each week and prizes for attendance.”
The program has a fee, but the money is reimbursed if the child completes the program.
Teachers recommend students they believe will benefit from the extra help.
“They need the extra exposure and time,” Sperl said. “There’s fewer kids, and it’s a chance to focus on the ones that need the extra help.”
She said the atmosphere offers a smaller class size and a quieter environment for students who are behind in certain subjects.
Hatten said he would rather be playing with his friends than be in summer school, but his parents made him go along with his sister.
Still, not every moment of the day felt like school.
Late Thursday morning, Hatten was sprawled out on the pavement near the playground spelling out words in sidewalk chalk as teacher Lauren Padon called them out.
“I like spelling and I like spending time outside,” he said.
His classmate, Drake Moe, 9, said he also has enjoyed spending time outside during recess and sometimes during the two classes he attended each day.
“I’d rather spend time outside learning than inside learning,” Moe said.
For Jenilee Reece, 9, her favorite part of summer school was Thursday.
Not only was it the last day, but she had the chance to celebrate her birthday with her classmates.
“I guess I like math, reading, writing and celebrating my birthday,” she said.
Sperl said she hopes by the time September rolls around, her summer school students will benefit from the extra time in the classroom, learning about the perimeter of ice cubes and making hypotheses about Popsicles.
And, she also hopes it wasn’t a painful road to get there.
“They seem happy to be here,” she said.